“Jack you can’t go! You need to stay here and take care of the pack and town!”
This was the same argument I had heard for the past month. Usually it would work, and I would ignore the urging of my wolf to leave everything—everyone—behind to find our lost mate. However, it wasn’t going to work this time around.
I needed to get out of here.
There was nothing here to remind me of my beautiful Emily. Everything just reminded me that she was gone from my life and it was driving me crazy.
I’d barely slept. I can’t remember the last time I ate. My hair is greasy, and I have a scraggly beard as I can’t be bothered to shower or shave.
Why should I have the luxury of being alert, well fed, and clean? It’s my fault my mate is gone. I should never have left her alone in her room. Her home had just been attacked. I should have stayed by her side until we were sure the threat was gone.
But no, I had to listen to my Alpha and come running like a good little dog. Now look at me. Mateless, while he gets to watch his love grow round with their child. He gets to have his mate by his side, while mine is Goddess knows where.
No! I needed to stop thinking like that. Devin didn’t know this was going to happen anymore than I did. We aren’t the ones to blame.
The ones who took my mate are.
“Jack! Are you even listening to me?!”
Brought back to the present, I looked around the room I was in. There was a king sized bed with a green comforter and pillows piled high to my left. A suitcase laying open and partially filled on top laid at the foot of the bed. On either side of the bed stood nightstands with wrought iron lamps on them. One of the tables held an alarm clock and a current thriller.
Next to the table on the left was the door leading to the master bathroom. Across from the bed, and to my right, was an entertainment center, complete with a big screen T.V. and gaming systems. Next to that was the door leading to the walk-in closet.
The wall adjacent to the closet was covered in floor-to-ceiling curtains, that were currently blocking the wall of windows—and natural light—from showing.
Turing around, I came across the source of the voice that had shaken me from my disturbing thoughts. In the doorway leading to the rest of my home was Clayton. Our pack’s third in command, and Devin’s brother-in-law. Not only that, but he was also my Deputy at the Police Department in town. And one of my closest friends.
He may look like a stereotypical surfer-dude, but he was the calm one of our group. The three of us; Devin, Clayton, and I; grew up together and were inseparable all the way through High School. Devin was always so serious, being next in line for Alpha. I was too busy trying to find out anything I could about werewolf History and law. I always thought I would find a clue as to who my real parents were in all those dusty old books. Clayton was the one that kept us together. He would keep the peace if it needed to be kept, and he would pull pranks if we needed a laugh.
Now he’s doing it all again. With Devin gone, and not able to command me to stay, he had to be the voice of reason. Only this time, reason wasn’t going to work.
“Jack, seriously, have you even thought of what this will do to the town? You need to stay here and help keep the pack in line. Devin and Leah wanted you to stay. They’ll find Emily and bring her home to you. You just have to be patient,” he tried again.
I snapped. Slamming him against the wall, I blocked his airways with a hand crushing his throat. “It’s been a month!” I roared in his face, ignoring his hands scrabbling to release my grip on his neck. “They left on a lead days ago and have not called in,” I growled out. “I need to go and find them. I need to find my mate. I need my Emily here. I need to feel her child moving under my hands, to know they are both safe and sound.”
My grip had loosened, and Clayton fell to the ground gasping for air. He looked up at me with pity and sorrow in his eyes. I couldn’t care less at the moment. I was in another place.
The meadow was beautiful. Lush and green. Vibrant wildflowers growing everywhere. And there, in the center—standing tall and proud—a majestic oak. It’s branches and leaves so thick, not a speck of light shown through them to the ground.
At the base of the tree sat a figure.
I crept forward, not wanting to scare whoever it was away.
As I got closer, I could see long, silky, black hair, and a curvy body round with child. My heart skipped a beat. Could it be? Is it… “Emily…” I breathed.
The figure turned towards the sound of my voice, and I saw her face. I took in every detail of her. Here she didn’t have scars across her face, and her eyes weren’t milky white with her blindness. No, here she was perfect, and she could see.
Her lips parted in shock, her hands coming to rest protectively on her growing belly. “Jack?” My name was a sigh upon her lips.
I wanted to feel those lips upon my own and took another step to reach that wonderful goal. But…I never got closer. I tried to run, only to become frantic when that took her image farther and farther from my reach.
I ran faster, my hands reaching out as if I could grab hold of her image and keep it with me forever.
“Emily!” I screamed, over and over until my voice was hoarse.
Nothing worked. Her image was gone.
I was on my knees, sobbing. Arms wrapped around me, rocking me back and forth. It did little to comfort. Emily was gone. I was alone. A shattered, broken shell of a man.
Pulling into the club parking lot early, I rested my head on the steering wheel.
My throat closed up, tears threatening to spill from my tightly closed lids. The emotions welling up inside were trying to break through the thick walls I put up to protect myself. One touch from Lex—the sound of his voice—formed cracks in the damn built to hide the hurt and pain. All three years worth.
Taking a deep shaky breath, I sat up straight in the driver’s seat and glanced at the clock on the dash radio. I had three minutes to get myself together before I was subjected to the perverts inside.
I hated this job, but it was the only one I could get that would hire me. Being an eighteen year old single mother with a GED didn’t exactly impress prospective employers. Besides it was good money.
At least I didn’t have to get up on stage.
I made that very clear when I first started. I was strictly a waitress. Luckily, the owner of the club, Ron, was a werewolf, and sympathetic to my situation. He knew all about my mate abandoning me, and the fact that I needed to be home as much as possible with my son.
He also made sure that the customers didn’t get too handsy with me.
Calmer, sure that I can make it through the evening, I climbed out of my brother’s truck.
The servers’ and dancers’ entrance was in the back of the building. I was thankful for it, but it was creepy behind the club, with all the poor lighting and shadows. The customers weren’t allowed to park back here—separated from the front parking lot with a high gated fence. This discouraged most of the men who frequented this place—to stay away—but not all of them.
There were only a handful of times a very persistent, drunk, asshole tried to get through the gate. They were usually, cornered by security, and escorted—non too gently—from the premises.
One of the bouncers was waiting by the back entrance as I walked up. “Hey Joe. Is Ron in? I need to talk to him real quick before I start my shift.”
Joe was six foot five and bald as a pool cue. He was built like a WWE wrestler, but was as gentle as a teddy bear with the girls that worked here.
His stern expression and sharp eyes softened when he looked down at my much shorter frame. Those melted chocolate eyes saw too much, and concern flitted across his strong features. “Everything okay there K.K.? You look like you’re about ready to cry.”
So much for thinking I had my emotions under control. “I’m fine Joe-Joe. I just really need to talk to Ron. Is he in?”
He looked like he was going to pursue the matter, but decided against it. Jerking his head towards the door he said, “He’s in his office. Last I saw, he was going over some paperwork and shouldn’t be too busy to talk.”
Nodding, I stepped around Joe and reached for the door. One of his overlarge hands grabbed my upper arm gently. Stopping me in my tracks. “K.K. if you need to talk, I’m here for you. You know that right? You can tell me, or any of the guys here, if your in trouble. We’ll help out.”
I almost burst into tears at his comment. I’ve only worked here for a month, and these guys treated me like a little sister instead of an employee.
After a deep breath in—slowly letting it out—I looked up into Joe’s concerned eyes. “I know Joe-Joe, but I can’t talk about it right now, or I may just break down. If I’m up to it later, I’ll tell you what’s going on. Right now, I just need to talk to Ron.”
Searching my face a moment longer, he nodded and let me go. He turned and opened the door for me with a formal bow. His tall, built, frame looked so ridiculous bent at the waist, with one hand out to the side and the other behind his back, I burst into giggles. He looked up from under his long lashes and smirked.
I kissed the top of his head, as I walked past. He meant to make me laugh. He was too sweet of a guy to be single, but most women were wary of his intimidating build.
Looking around the dressing room, I noticed one of the dancers giving me the evil eye. She kept staring between Joe and me. Hmm, maybe I’ll have to have a talk with her about Joe. Who knows, my Joe-Joe might not be single for long.
Moving past her, and ignoring the death glares, I saw her name tag on her locker said ‘Carly.’ I’ll have to remember that for when I have a little heart to heart with her.
Not bothering to stop by my own locker, I moved through the dressing room to the little office off to the side. The door was closed and the blind was down, but then again Ron wouldn’t spy on his girls changing. He had a mate and didn’t want to disrespect her, or us, by leaving the blind up.
Rapping my knuckles quickly on the door, I waited for the go ahead to come in.
Opening the door, I saw Ron sitting behind his desk looking over a mound of paperwork. He was in his early thirties, and didn’t look a day over twenty-five. That was just good genes. He had a head full of shaggy brown hair, that fell into his eyes and over his ears. His dark green eyes, were glued to the paper before him, and it took a minute before he acknowledged my presence.
“Hey Kay, what’s up? You never come in here before a shift.”
He leaned back in his black leather chair, crossing his arms over his chest. His muscles straining against the thin fabric of his black shirt. Ron was one good looking wolf, and his mate was one lucky woman to have him by her side.
I never did get why he ran a ‘gentlemen’s club’ when he had a mate who probably didn’t approve of his owning the club. It wasn’t until I heard about his mate and what happened to her that things made sense.
Before they met, his mate was a stripper, just like some of the girls here. But unlike them, her boss treated all the girls that worked for him as his own personal toys. Ron’s mate had been raped and abused the entire time she worked for her old boss, before she finally landed in the hospital. Ron had been visiting a sick friend when she came in and after hearing her story, he went out and tracked down her old boss.
Ron beat the guy senseless and took the business from him. He turned things around, and fired most of the male employees. He got the girls help and vowed that none of them would be treated like that again.
Everyone that works for him says he is a great boss, and is sure to take care of any employee no matter what the situation. I just hope that was true.
Clearing my throat, I tried to figure out where to begin. Fidgeting with my purse strap, I looked anywhere but Ron’s eyes. When did he get the fern in the window?
“Kay, what’s going on? Are you in trouble? Is your son okay?”
At the mention of my son, I whipped my head back to Ron’s concerned gaze. “No, Quinn’s okay,” I assured quickly. “It’s something else. I just don’t know where to begin.”
“Just spit it out. Whatever it is, I’ll help. You know that.”
“My mate’s back,” I blurted.
Ron stilled. A growl reverberated in his chest and around the room, shaking some of the items on the shelves along the walls.
“You mean that no-good-piece-of-shit-mate that left you pregnant at fifteen is back?” His eyes were pitch black. A sure sign his wolf was ready to rip something or someone apart. This someone being my so-called mate.
All I could do was nod. The tears were threatening to choke me with how hard I was trying not to let them fall.
“Does he know about Quinn? Does he know you’re here?”
Ron’s questions caught me off guard. “I…I…I don’t know if he knows I’m here, but he met Quinn. I don’t think he knows he is his son, but he knows he’s mine.”
He calmed a little at my answers, visibly relaxing back into his chair. It was silent for a few minutes before he leaned forward and picked up the phone on his desk.
“Hey, Carlo, keep an eye out for any unknown wolves coming into the club tonight.”
Silence, as he listened to the response on the other end.
“No, I don’t know who I’m looking for, just keep an eye out. I’m not expecting any trouble, but it could be a possibility.”
Quiet. “Yeah, just let me know if you see anything.” He hung up the phone and brought his attention back to me. “Do you want to go home, or do you want to stay here and work?”
I was not expecting that question, and took a moment to ponder what I wanted to do. If I went home, there was a possibility of Lex being there. Cameron, also, had his friends over, and I really didn’t know if I could deal with his drama at the moment. Then again, if I stayed here, I’d have to deal with the horny bastards we called customers. Hmm, what would be the lesser of two evils?
Giving Ron my answer, I got up and walked out the door.
I’d been driving in circles for an hour, before I finally found the club Kayla was supposed to be working at. ‘Down and Dirty’ was lit up in red flashing neon. Below that, in discreet white lettering, read, ‘Gentlemen’s club Food Wine & Women.’
I was so angry with those words, I didn’t notice my steering wheel was a mangled mess from my unrelenting grip.
Stepping from my flashy sports car, I slammed my door with restrained fury. The sound echoing like a gunshot in the quiet evening.
My thoughts were all over the place, as I made my way to the front of the club. First and foremost was the fact that I was right. My mate was a whore. Dressing in skimpy clothing, and working in a place like this. She was eighteen for fuck’s sake. She shouldn’t have been able to get a job here as a floor sweeper, let alone ripping her clothes off for perverts to get their rocks off.
Cameron was lying about her son being mine. There was no way. She probably slept with half the school after we mated. The boy could be anyone’s. For all I know, he was a product of one of the pervs inside.
My pulse was pounding through my veins. Echoing through my ears, making them ring with the violence coursing through me. If I had been calmer, I would have noticed the place was crawling with wolves.
I would have noticed the two that tried to stand in my way, blocking me from the entrance. Unfortunately for them, I was seeing red. I plowed through without a second thought. The pulse of the music hit me full force as I entered the club. Lights were dim, with some flashing to the beat of the music on the stage to my right.
Scanning around, I didn’t see Kayla dancing with the other girls to what was barely recognizable as‘Glory and Gore’ by Lorde. Looking around again, I noticed her walking to a table with a tray in her hands full of drinks.
Her hips swayed as she made her way to the men waiting to get wasted on cheap beer, and cheaper thrills. She was almost to her table, when an older gentleman at another table, leaned out and slapped her on the ass.
She barely stumbled, but turned to look at the man who just accosted her pert behind. She sent him a flirtatious look, said something that made him blush, and continued on her way.
Once the drinks were on the table, she turned to head back to the bar. One of the men she just served grabbed her arm and pulled her into his lap.
A growl was working it’s way up my throat, but before I could act, one of the bouncers did. He grabbed the other man’s hand and bent it backwards. Releasing Kayla from his grip. She scrambled from the man’s lap and hurried towards the bar, ignoring the shouted suggestions from the men at other tables.
Placing her tray on the counter, she turned and headed to a door next to the end of the bar. A moment later, a tall, shaggy haired, man exited and made his way to the table Kayla just served. The bouncer still had the other guy in a death grip and only released him when Shaggy made it over there.
The man was then jerked out of his seat, to the dismay of his friends, and escorted out of the building.
As the bouncer walked past me, he stiffened and shot his head in my direction. I couldn’t care less. My attention was on the door that Kayla still had not emerged from.
Mr. Shaggy, made his way over to me, and cleared his throat to get my attention. I barely spared him a glance. If I had been in my right mind, I would have noticed he was a wolf, and one of power at that. As it was, all I could comprehend was that he was slightly familiar, and he was blocking my view of the door Kayla had escaped behind.
What could she be doing back there? Probably, sucking some douchebag’s cock? A snarky, mean, part of me thought.
“I think you need to leave.”
What? I looked back at the guy before me. I was still seeing red, otherwise I would have noticed who he was. All I did was growl at him, and try to shoulder my way past. I needed to get to Kayla, and straighten the bitch out. No mate of mine was going to be working in a place like this. Not when she had a child to take care of.
And if she was with someone, then it would just be proof of what I knew all along. The guy would die, and I would have the excuse needed to break the mate bond between us.
Shaggy put his hand on my chest stopping me from going any further. “Don’t you growl at me young pup. You are going to walk out of this club quietly, or I will have you escorted out and taught a lesson.”
The authority in the man’s voice was slowly slipping past the angry haze clouding my mind. Getting a better look at him, I froze.
Shit! Was Cameron right? Were the Council after Kayla’s son? What other reason would Councilman Ronald Kotter be doing at a seedy club where Kayla worked?
What the Hell is going on?